July 12, 2013 6:09 pm

Short cuts: Travel news and inspiration

A high-speed boat tour on the Thames and a new rooftop restaurant and bar at the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona
A Thames Rocket near Tower Bridge

A Thames Rocket near Tower Bridge

Madrid Iberia is claiming a world first by allowing passengers to download and print their own luggage tags, thus reducing queues at check-in counters. Passengers print the tags on one sheet of A4, which is then folded into quarters, inserted into a reusable plastic envelope (obtained at airports) and attached to the luggage. The service was launched last week on all Iberia domestic flights and is due to be extended to its international flights soon. www.iberia.com

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London A new high-speed boat tour will be launched on London’s river Thames later this month. Thames Rockets will run 12-metre fibreglass boats that carry 12 passengers at speeds up to 30 knots (35mph), departing from St Katharine’s Dock and touring the river between Tower Bridge and the Thames Barrier. New bylaws came into force last year introducing speed limits in response to growing river traffic. Most sections have either an eight- or 12-knot limit, but east of Tower Bridge is a “high-speed zone” that allows specially licensed boats to reach 30 knots. The first Thames Rocket will be launched on July 27 and the 40-minute trip costs £39.95 per adult. www.londonribvoyages.com/thamesrockets

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Manila Philippine Airlines is to resume flights to Europe, after a gap of 15 years, following the lifting of an EU ban imposed because the airline failed to meet international safety standards. Ramon Ang, the airline’s president, said it hoped to start flights to London and Paris in the autumn. www.philippineairlines.com

The Mandarin Oriental’s new terrace

The Mandarin Oriental’s new terrace

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Umbria Receiving a handwritten letter from friends or family abroad has become increasingly rare in the email era, prompting a new business to see a gap in the market. Est! Est! Est!, run by a British couple who moved to Umbria seven years ago, will – for a fee – send handwritten and illustrated letters about life in Italy to complete strangers. One letter costs £6.80; a package of three letters, sent one per month, costs £20.41. www.estestest.me.uk

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Barcelona Just in time for the Catalan summer, the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona has launched a rooftop restaurant and bar, with swimming pool and dramatic views over the city. Food is Peruvian-Japanese fusion; cocktails range from bellinis to pisco sours. It’s restricted to hotel guests in the afternoons, but opens to non-residents after 6pm. www.mandarinoriental.com

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